• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 7:19am
NewsAsia
SINGAPORE

76-year-old ban on gay sex challenged in Singapore’s top court

Lawyers say colonial law violates constitutional rights to equal protection

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 10:39pm

Singapore's highest court yesterday began hearing challenges to a 76-year-old ban on gay sex.

Lawyers for Kenneth Chee and Gary Lim argued that the ban, first adopted under British colonial rule in 1938, discriminates against gay men and violates rights to equal protection guaranteed by Singapore's constitution. A two-day hearing before a three-judge panel began yesterday.

Singapore lawmakers in 2007 agreed to keep the law, known as Section 377A, when they repealed related provisions that had made heterosexual oral and anal sex a crime.

Gay-rights activists and church groups advocated last year against and for the ban, which the government says it hasn't actively enforced since the mid-1990s. That prompted the Attorney General's Chamber to warn that comment on the case could be in contempt if calculated to affect the court's decision.

"The majority of the population still favours the current legal framework," Law Minister K. Shanmugam said last month when asked about the case and its background. While society was evolving and social mores were changing, "the government has taken the position that this is a situation where it is best to agree to disagree".

Police asked attendees at this year's annual gay-pride rally Pink Dot to "keep the peace" and avoid comments on race and religion. The warning came after Muslim and Christian groups called on their followers to wear white on the day to signify "purity" and to oppose the event.

Gay activists last year started an online petition for abolition ahead of a lower court hearing on the law's constitutionality, and a group of pastors met Shanmugam to present their views on defending the nation's "moral future".

Singapore Court of Appeal judges Andrew Phang, Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li are hearing the arguments on behalf of Chee, 38, and Lim, 46, as well as a parallel appeal by another man, Tan Eng Hong, against the ban on acts of "gross indecency" between males. Offenders face mandatory jail terms of as long as two years.

The judiciary shouldn't override parliament, the attorney general's office told the High Court in February 2013 when Lim and Chee's case was first heard.

 

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This article is now closed to comments

asiaseen
"The majority of the population still favours the current legal framework," Law Minister K. Shanmugam said"
What he really meant to say was that Lee Kwan Yew, and therefore the PAP, still favours...
sammckhk
So the judges have been told what to do.

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